Thirty-two Rare Books, Prints and Manuscripts from Hordern House
By Michael Stillman
It is not often we see catalogues that are 8 x 11 1/2 and a quarter of an inch thick. When we receive one of this size that contains only 32 items, you can be confident that the works offered must be quite special. The latest from Australian bookseller Hordern House is entitled Thirty-two rare books, prints and manuscripts. This is a collection of gems, a great many with some tie to Australia or the Pacific, but not exclusively so. For example, a circa 1794 jigsaw puzzle world map certainly includes Australia, but covers all of the rest of the globe too. Whatever and wherever you collect, particularly if it relates to travel and exploration, this catalogue is likely to offer items that will intrigue. Here are a few.
Item 30 is a copy of the second (and preferred) edition of the essential early history of Mexico by Juan de Torquemada, Los veinte i un libros rituales i Monarchia Indiana. Torquemada was a missionary to New Spain who set out to record everything he could find about the indigenous peoples. The three-volume set includes much about the area after colonized by Spain, and much theological material as well. However, Torquemada also endeavored to record all he could about the people prior to Spanish rule. He studied pictographs and ancient writings, and interviewed aged people who retained native oral histories dating to pre-Spanish times. The first edition was published in 1615 but is extremely rare. This second edition, published in 1723, is preferred as it contains the map. Priced at AU $38,000 (Australian dollars, or approximately US $33,227).
Item 4 is a discharge certificate for Midshipman Phillip Carteret, signed by his captain, John Byron, in 1753. However, Carteret was not abandoning ship, but simply moving from one ship commanded by Byron to another. Byron had already sailed around the world with Anson at this point, and he and Carteret were evidently good friends. Carteret would sail again with Byron from 1764-1766 during the latter's own circumnavigation aboard the Dolphin, during which the British claimed the Falkland Islands. Carteret would next be given command of the Swallow as part of Samuel Wallis' circumnavigation. However, the two ships would be separated rounding the Strait of Magellan. Carteret would go on to discover Pitcairn Island and, naturally, the Carteret Islands before returning home. Sadly, his memorial may soon be lost, as the Carterets are currently under evacuation. They are being swallowed by the sea, the first victims of global warming. In a few years, it is anticipated they will be no more. AU $15,500 (US $13,567).
Item 15 is the four-volume official account of the ill-fated La Perouse voyage, Voyage de la Perouse autour du Monde... Jean La Perouse never made it "autour du monde," though he did visit many locations along the Pacific. Fortunately, the commander had a habit of sending his reports back with others when he made stops, so his account survived even though he and his crew did not. He had visited the Pacific Coast of North America, China, and various islands when he pulled into Australia's Botany Bay in 1788. The British had arrived just ahead of him, and as was his habit, La Perouse gave the latest updates in his account to the British to take back to France. After six weeks of observing the British, Perouse and his ships departed, never to be heard from again. AU $36,000 (US $31,507).